Evening Blues Preview 4-29-15

This evening's music features Chicago blues harmonica player and singer Big John Wrencher.

Here are some stories from tonight's post:

Black Baltimore residents aren't 'animals'. We punish people for killing animals

After massive protests in the streets of Baltimore to raise awareness about Baltimore City police practices and to demand answers and accountability in the death of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old man whose spine and neck were severed in 4 different places while in police custody – eventually resulted in the destruction of property and serious injury to some police officers, the protesters’ frustration prompted many white people (on blogs and in social media) to refer to black Baltimoreans as “animals” for their actions.

But “animals” is a misnomer. People – including police officers – are punished for killing or doing harm to domestic animals. Baltimore has busted dog fighting rings and sent offenders to prison for animal cruelty. In 2014, former Baltimore City police officer Alec Taylor was sentenced to a year behind bars for killing a dog. That might not seem like much, but it is longer than the sentences given to the killers of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Rekia Boyd or 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones. ...

If African Americans were indeed animals, perhaps they would have organizations like People for the Ethical Treatement of Animals to stand up for their “ethical treatment”. Peta has 3m members and a yearly revenue of over $30m; it engages in multi-pronged attacks on what it calls “speciesism”, and its influence has made many people spring into action and even adopt vegan diets (despite questionable health benefits). Though Black Lives Matter has white middle class and celebrity support, I do not believe very many white people have changed their entire lifestyles in order to ensure the dismantling of racism. ...

Animals – even ones who kill humans like Tilikum, a SeaWorld orca who has been involved in the deaths of three people – are spoken of with more compassion and understanding than young black boys who shove a store clerk or take pictures giving the middle finger on social media. Tilikum is said to be a victim of his captivity and environment, and former SeaWorld trainers have said that, were he in a more humane or free environment, he would have not harmed a human being.

Black Baltimoreans who are venting their anger at their decades-long economic and social marginalization are not given the benefit of the doubt like Tilikum.

Maryland Cop Lobbyists Helped Block Reforms Just Last Month

A package of police reform bills that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is scheduled to sign into law today, in part as a response to the death of 25-year-old Baltimore resident Freddie Gray, was weakened under political pressure from Maryland police unions, a major force in state politics.

The bills will allow police to wear body cameras, increase the liability cap for lawsuits against government employees, and encourage the state to collect more data on police behavior.

But more substantial reforms, including legislation to add a civilian review process and to have state prosecutors investigate all killings by police, were shot down during a legislative hearing in Annapolis earlier this year. ...

A recent report from the ACLU of Maryland found that at least 109 people died in police encounters in Maryland from 2010 to 2014. ...

In a major investigation last year, the Baltimore Sun reported that the city has paid out $5.7 million since 2011 to settle police brutality cases. In many cases, charges were never even brought.

Meet The Only Person Being Punished After The Senate Torture Report

Five months after the Senate Intelligence Committee released its gruesome report on the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program, someone is finally paying steep professional consequences. Except it’s not the former torturers. Or their superiors. Or even the CIA officials who improperly searched the computers that Senate investigators used to construct the study.

It’s the person who helped expose them.

Alissa Starzak, a former Democratic majority staffer on the Senate Intelligence Committee, played a critical and controversial role during her time on the panel: She was a lead investigator for the torture report, and was one of two staffers involved in an ongoing feud over damning internal CIA documents obtained by the committee.

Currently serving as deputy general counsel for the Defense Department, Starzak was nominated last July to serve as general counsel to the Army.

But the critics of the torture investigation -- namely, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-N.C.) -- are orchestrating a quiet campaign to stall Starzak's nomination.

Burr confirmed to The Huffington Post that he is working to keep the former investigator from getting approved by the Senate.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg eviscerates same-sex marriage opponents in court

“Marriage today is not what it was under the common law tradition, under the civil law tradition,” said Ginsburg when Justices Roberts and Kennedy began to fret about whether the court had a right to challenge centuries of tradition.

“Marriage was a relationship of a dominant male to a subordinate female,” she explained. “That ended as a result of this court’s decision in 1982 when Louisiana’s Head and Master Rule was struck down … Would that be a choice that state should [still] be allowed to have? To cling to marriage the way it once was?”

“No,” replied John Bursch, the somewhat chastised lawyer for the states who are seeking to preserve their ban on gay marriage.

Bursch was similarly eviscerated by Ginsburg when he tried to argue that the sole purpose of marriage was to ensure a stable relationship for procreation.

“Suppose a couple, 70-year-old couple, comes in and they want to get married?” remarked the 82-year-old Ginsburg, to laughter, after a protracted debate over whether it was fair to ask couples if they wanted children before allowing them to wed.

Also of interest:

Baltimore and the Human Right to Resistance: Rejecting the Framework of the Oppressor

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